Sunday, February 5, 2023

Tell me, whom would you blame? (760 words)


Meena had overslept after seeing Indian Idol late in the night and it was past 7am when she woke up. Her husband Nataraj would be leaving for the office by 8.15am and breakfast should be ready. Milk was not yet delivered. She took the only packet available from the fridge and boiled it for making coffee. It curdled to her dismay. The maid had abstained the previous evening and was yet to come. The vessels were in the sink unwashed. To add to the misery the power went off suddenly. The day had not begun well for Meena. She was fretting and fuming at Kavitha, her maid, for playing truant repeatedly and decided to tell her to stop coming if she cannot be regular.

Her daughter Trisha and son Kartik were still sleeping blissfully being holidays. Her husband was busy with his mobile opposite the TV and asking Meena now and then for coffee, his specs or his diary. The last straw was when the gas was over in the cylinder needing replacement. She started shouting “I am not a slave in this house to slog while others enjoy sleeping or watching TV. My parents have not sent me here as an unpaid servant. I am not making any breakfast. Let them order from Saravana Bhavan or anywhere if they need to eat.”

Nataraj shouted “Meena, talk gently. Don’t you see I am on the phone? Someone is ringing the doorbell. Please answer and keep ready the flowers for the puja.”

“I am on strike today. You can do your things without my help. I am not the only one in the house to answer the bell. Ask your children to get up and do the needful. I am having severe headache and I am going to lie down. If Kavita does not come, let them order food from caterers” she replied

Nataraj left for the office in a huff without taking breakfast. The children woke up in the noise but were afraid to come near their mom. It was around 9.30 am when Kavita made her appearance along with a sob story that her husband took ill suddenly and had to be taken to hospital. When she saw Meena buying her story, she requested Meena to advance her Rs.1000 towards medical expenses. Meena flatly refused saying that she had more than two months’ salary as advance already.

Kartik was telling his sister that he needed Rs. 1000 for a treat at Pizza Hut and that he had promised his friends lunch for being a topper in the class. He sought her help as he was afraid to broach the subject to mom in her present foul mood.

 When Meena started shouting at the two for being lazy and late in rising from bed, Trisha thought it prudent not to talk about the money Kartik needed. Meena, being a good-natured person, could not deny the advance the maid had wanted. She kept Rs. 1000 on the dining table to be given to Kavita after she had finished the work. She went to rest after asking the local caterer to send food for lunch.

Kavita finished her work quickly and left in an angry mood that her request for advance was turned down. Trisha was not aware that money was kept on the dining table to be given to Kavita.

When Trisha was taking bath, Kartik found Rs. 1000 on the table and thinking it was kept for him he pocketed it and was thankful to Trisha for getting it from mom.

When Kavita came in the afternoon and pleaded with Meena again for the advance, she shouted at her, “How dare you ask me again after taking Rs.1000 kept for you on the dining table in the morning? What do you think we are? A tree raining money?”

“What Rs.1000, amma? What are you talking about? I have not taken any money,” she replied

“Trisha, where is the money I had kept on the table for Kavita? “asked Meena

“How would I know? You never told me of any money kept on the table. Ask your son?” she retorted.

The bell rang then. Kartik entered the hall laughing along with his friends after a hearty lunch consisting of ubiquitous Bruschetta, a veggie Pizza with a healthy mix of mushrooms, red onions, bell peppers, black olives, tomatoes and spinach, along with coke. He was surprised to see the angry face of his mom and the quizzical smile on his sister’s face. He asked her innocently,”Wassup?” oblivious of the storm to follow.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Yama’s self-appraisal (847 words)

Yama, the death god (DG in short), had come down to the town in disguise like an ordinary man to know firsthand what the people are saying about his work. He had been doing his destructive work diligently and with great care without any mistake from time immemorial but no one was still happy with him and his name brought instant disgust. There was no one above him to review his work or assess him. He had been entrusted with this ‘thankless’ job that only evoked fear and dread and no respect.

In this trip, he wished to find the reactions of people when death struck a house. It is not that he was whimsical or arbitrary in the choice of his ‘victim’ but there was a method and an unfailing system anchored on justice. He had an able assistant in Chitragupta who kept minute details of the good and bad that one did and a personal record for everyone without the fancy gizmos that can splutter to a halt due to system failure. No one has ever accused him of mistakes in identity though they would have liked him to spare them and visit somebody’s house nearby instead.

He inwardly smiled when he thought, what would have been the consequences if his work were in the hands of an earthling in authority with his greed, corrupt ways and pronounced propensity to subvert the system. There would have been mind boggling scams with the rich and powerful remaining untouched by the icy hands of death but the death rate still maintained at the expense of the poor, lonely and lost. There would have been an unwritten rate for extension of life for each week, month or year. If any activist dared to question, he would have been the instant victim. Luckily for mankind, DG was still in charge of affairs.

As he was walking on the road, he saw a crowd at one spot craning inside a gaping hole. Someone told him that a child fell in the hole a day ago and they did not have the necessary expertise or the equipment to bring the child out alive. He smiled to himself as he knew the child had died last night itself. Luckily no one was blaming DG but only the municipality though the child’s mom was bewailing that Yama was blind bringing to an end the life of a child even before it had bloomed. Little did she know that the child was indeed blessed to depart so soon as it had no bad karma to linger longer? Her grief was immeasurable though.

An old beggar lay dead unclaimed on the platform. Everyone walked past him with their nostrils closed by hankies/towels and again the municipality was the butt of their anger and no one thought of DG

It was at the death of a young woman stricken with cancer and who had three small children, that the entire crowd of mourners cursed him for his cruel and insensitive snatching of a young life. The wailing children and sobbing husband was a pathetic sight even to DG, known for his calm and stoic demeanour. But in his job, there was no place for emotion or special dispensation. It was her past karma that gave her this sad and short life.

The scene was different at the violent death at the hands of an assassin of a political functionary. He was well known for his corrupt ways, immoral life and dadagiri. While the ordinary folks kept mum, the dead man’s huge band of followers were restless and angry wanting a vent to let out their emotions of loyalty on buses and other public property. Luckily, DG was never in their radar. The common folk seemed pleased at the ‘leader’s’ departure and no grouse was heard against DG for doing his duty.

Strange was the scene at another house where DG heard someone calling him by name, ‘Yama dharma Raja’. He peeped in to find an old lady in her late 80s who lay on a mat on the ground coughing intermittently and turning her body in pain or hunger. DG found the house folks seated before TV happily watching a music serial unmindful of the suffering of the old woman. She was muttering “Dharma raja, won’t you take me away? Enough of this wretched life, I do not wish to be a burden anymore and suffer unwanted and uncared for. Take me away immediately., I implore you” He knew her time had not come and that she was destined to suffer for a few months more. Though he pitied her, he could not abridge her life before the predetermined time.

 But he never had entered any house without taking a life from it. The next day morning the household woke up to witness their cow dead. Someone said heartlessly “Yama could have taken that useless old woman instead of the cow that yielded good amount of milk daily”: to the accompaniment of approving nods.

Yama let out a sigh in disgust and left for his abode


Monday, January 30, 2023

Faith moves mountains (860 words)

The morning paper no doubt carried the usual forecast of the meteorological department about the likely light to heavy showers in the evening. Yet when Vasantha left her house to do some urgent shopping, the sky was very clear with no indication of any rain. As she finished her purchases and came out of the large supermarket with a heavy bag on her shoulder, it was raining heavily with road dark. Most of the customers were waiting in the portico for the rain to subside. The wind was chilly and strong.  But it did subside after an hour when the roads by then were heavily flooded with water.

 She luckily saw a bus to her destination crawling opposite to the supermarket  in the inevitable traffic jam. She ran towards it and got into the crowded bus. She breathed a sigh of relief that she should be back in her home within thirty minutes. The bus started moving slowly and the rains also commenced again with greater fury. The road was filled knee deep with water. She could see many cars stranded after they broke down. It looked hours as the bus inched its way towards the destination. She regretted her decision to go out despite the warning of a possible rain as she also wondered who ever attached importance to  the weather predictions of the department.

The bus stopped at a stop that was about two furlongs away from her house. It was again raining cats and dogs. The conductor urged her to get down quickly. There were no trees nearby except a transformer. The bus stop was just adjacent to the transformer. It was getting dark. The road was dimly lit. She was afraid to wade through the knee-deep water with a heavy bag in her hand. She was apprehensive of open manholes that she had seen earlier. There was not a soul in sight. No auto rickshaws could be seen.

 It was those days when mobile phones were not in use. She got really nervous though a brave lady by nature. When things look so formidable with no ray of hope, people turn to god. She too prayed intensely to her ishta devatha Lord Guruvayurappan, the presiding deity of Guruvayur to help her reach home. Tears were trickling from her eyes as she continued the prayer amidst the unrelenting rain. Her clothes were drenched and legs started aching.

It was then incredibly a cycle rickshaw appeared before her as if from nowhere and the driver remonstrated at her “Have you gone mad, Amma, standing under a transformer in this heavy rain? Are you not educated enough? Get in quickly. I will drop you.”

It was then she realized that the driver was the one who took children of her locality to the school daily. Surprised she asked him,” How come you are here after the school hours on this horribly rainy day?”

“How does it matter,Amma? Lucky I am here.Get in  quickly,” he replied

She asked him” You know my house in 2nd cross street. How much do you want?”

He laughed saying “What a foolish woman you are asking me such a question in this scary situation? You give whatever you feel like. This is not a time to bargain. Get in fast”

He dropped her soon at her house and pocketed the money she gave him without even looking at it to know how much she had given. Vasantha sincerely believed that it was Lord Guruvayurappan Himself who had answered her prayers for no rickshaw driver in sane mind would be plying the vehicle in such a downpour in that desolate road.

The air was cold and it was still raining heavily as Vasantha stood watching in the downpour  at  the rikshaw with her saviour in the front fading away from her eyes in the dark road.

The next morning sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly.Vasantha was standing near the gate plucking flowers from the plants when she saw the rikshaw driver  stopping at the opposite house to take their girl.

She hailed him  and said , “Hello, thank you immensely for dropping me at home last evening in the down pour.I should have paid you much more. If you can wait, I will fetch some more and give you.”

“When did I come last evening? After dropping the children, I went home  and rested. It must be someone else who must have brought you home,” he said.

Utterly in disbelief, she said. “No, it was you only  Don’t I know you and you even chided me for standing under the transformer. Have you forgotten so soon?”

“Amma,I do not know what you are talking about. I did not take you home last evening and I went back home after dropping school children. I am certain about it,” he said with finality.

Vasantha stood  dazed with goose bumps when she grasped the truth that it was none else than the lord Himself who had answered her prayers the previous evening.

  "We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito."

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The old man’s worry (464 words)

“Loggu, loggu,” the old man continued coughing for a few minutes before he said with a worried look, “Let me continue to stay here.  Please do not leave me anywhere else.”

“No appa(daddy). You stay there for some days. It is a good place. I will surely bring you back home soon.”

“If it is only for a few days, why do you have to send me? I am afraid you would leave me there permanently,” lamented the old man.

“Please try to understand. You are coughing all the time and it is not improving. It is examination time for children. They are disturbed much in their studies,” said his son Raju.

“I will not cough anymore,” loggu, loggu”, he coughs again and resumes,” If I get cough, I will cover my mouth with the towel. Do not send me away,” he persisted.

“Appa, you refuse to understand and are becoming a problem. It is not only the children’s examination, Vanaja is not really well since a week and needs rest. Her mother is coming to help her with the chores. There is no space. When both of you get better, I will bring you back, may be in a week’s time,” explained Raju.

“What if I stay on the front porch and come inside only for a bath and taking food? Is it okay?”

“Appa, do not keep grumbling in worry. You will be taken care of very well. Do not imagine wrongly that you are being thrown out into the middle of a forest. Please be cooperative,” replied Raju.

“The food in that place would be disgusting. I like only Vanaja’s preparations,” griped the old man.

Ignoring the old man’s pleas, Raju said with a finality in his tone, “Be ready by 7am tomorrow. Do not create hassles. Be assured that I will not let you down.”

The whole night the old man could not sleep and kept turning in bed in worry. The next morning Raju and Vanaja took him in the car.

The old man in a confused tone asked,” Raju, this massive and posh building does not look like a senior home. Why have we come here?”

“Who told you that you are going to be sent to a senior home? This is a big hospital. Our family doctor advised that it is best for you to be treated at a hospital as you have a chronic infection with chest congestion. They may observe you and after several tests treat you properly. I have booked a single room for you. I would visit you twice daily and bring food from home. Be cheerful without any worry.” Raju clarified.

“Sorry da, you are a gem. I was completely wrong in my fears,” the old man confessed with an embarrassed smile.


Sunday, January 22, 2023

The enigmatic touch (1140)

(A translation of my Tamil story)

Chakrapani Iyengar would be around 70 years, tall and fair complexioned but with a frail health. He was confined mostly to his bed or easy chair in the spacious hall after a heart attack two years back. A soft spoken and gentle person, he was taciturn by nature and was content with his newspaper and TV. A god-fearing person, he was not overtly religious save the red line on his forehead. He received a fat pension and was financially sound.

His wife Champakam, short and stodgy, dusky with charming face had a kind disposition. The couple got along very well with no quarrel between them with each one trying to please the other.

In this short Rajee is an important character. A vegetable seller she brought daily in the mornings different varieties of greens and in the evening sweet limes(mosambi) and oranges. Champakam (we would call her Mami) has been buying daily greens and sweet lime for the last three years. Rajee about 40 years old, slim and very attractive, had three children. To her bad luck, her husband was a good-for-nothing fellow, not going for job regularly, given to drinking and beating Rajee almost daily for money. Her household was running only on her meagre income. She would often share with mami her miserable condition with a violent wastrel for a husband. The latter would patiently lend her ears and when Rajee struggled to pay the school fees or meet medical expenses, would give her money without expecting it back. Iyengar would be inwardly pleased that his wife was kind and helpful.

Let us come now to the crux of the story.

In the morning as Rajee announces her arrival shouting the names of different greens, Mami would hurry to lend a hand to put down the heavy basket from her head. The bright greens damp with sprinkled water drops would tempt anyone to buy. Once the basket is put down, Rajee would hastily tell, “Don’t touch the greens. Call ayya (sir), let him come and touch the greens first.” Mami’s face would fall instantly.

Some days Mami would tell her with some acerbity,” Ayya is having his bath. What if I touch the greens? Would they shrink and become pale? Funny, you keep grumbling “ayya, ayya” as if he has magical hands.”

“True, he has a mysterious touch. All the greens would be sold in a hour or two and I would be back home to cook food for children. If you touch, there would be delay and some may remain unsold. Do not mistake me. I can wait for ayya to come,” Rajee would tell.

Mami with a frown on her face would tell Iyengar, “Your Rajee tells that only if you touch the greens first, they would be sold quickly. I do not know what special or magical touch she is talking about. I am married to you for nearly 40 years and yet to know your enigmatic touch,” and go inside jabbing her jaw sideways against her shoulder.

Iyengar would not miss the mischievous punch in his wife’s words but still walk with some pride towards Rajee and tell her, “Do not offend anyone while speaking as it is hurting,” and take two bundles from her basket.

“No, ayya, I have not spoken in an inappropriate manner but was only telling that if you touch the greens first, I would be able to reach home early. Don’t I know about the good nature of Amma?" Rajee would reply in pacifying way.

If for one or two days Rajee does not come, Mami would be concerned as to what happened and tell Iyengar, “I am wondering why Rajee has not been  coming and whether her cruel husband has hurt her.” He would reply, “I have been wanting to ask you the same. Why don’t you ask her sister if you happen to see her?” Such is the kind of impact Rajee had made with this elderly couple.

One day around 7 pm, Iyengar told his wife,” Champakam, I am unable to breathe and the chest is paining. Get a doctor immediately.”

Dazed and frightened, she ran to the front porch and shouted at the boy in the opposite house, “Ranga, Ranga, please fetch a doctor immediately. Uncle is unable to breathe and is having acute chest pain intermittently.”

Within a few minutes, a doctor and some neighbours were there. Someone tried to revive him through CPR but to no avail. There was nothing they could do and Iyengar passed away.

Next day morning, when Rajee came as usual shouting the names of various greens, she saw small groups of people standing on the lawn and inside the porch. She put down the basket immediately and rushed in. To her great shock she saw Iyengar’s body laid in the hall, she let out a shriek,”Ayya,ayya, how can you do this and leave us as destitute?” and cried inconsolably as if her own father had died. Everyone without exception wiped their eyes seeing the grieving vegetable vendor.

For more than a month Rajee was not to be seen. This added worry to the already grieving Champakam. She chanced to see Rajee’s sister who worked in the neighbourhood and enquired about her. It transpired that Rajee stopped selling greens and fruits ever since and sitting stupefied at the entrance to her hut. It seems when asked why she was not resuming to sell greens and fruits, her reply was that business was closed for ever with the passing away of ayya. Her sister also informed the children were hungry despite some help from neighbours. She has now started making idlis daily and selling from the front side of her house.

 Mami gave her 500 rupees to be given to Rajee and wanted that she should meet her immediately.

Mami was touched by the strange bond of affection between a simple vegetable vendor and the aged husband of hers.

Rajee came after a week. She looked pale with her eyes swollen. On seeing mami, she started crying again. It was now the turn of Mami to console her. She told her,” I heard you have stopped selling greens and fruits and instead begun selling idles from your house. Why don’t you come daily for one hour or so to help me? I will pay you monthly 2500 rupees. You can come after10 am by which time you would have finished selling idlis. What do you say?”

She agreed telling Mami that she would do whatever she asked her to do. Mami then confided to her,” My husband had instructed me to treat you like his daughter. He has left 75000 rupees in your favour in his Will. Do not worry,” and patted her gently.

On hearing this, Rajee  started crying again at the strange affection and kindness of the old couple for her.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

The teacher in trouble (1335)


Shanmugam was walking along Pondy bazaar  with his son Kumaran when the boy suddenly dragged his father to the opposite platform. When asked why, the boy pointed out to a tall man in his late thirties in dhoti and ochre coloured  jibba,  with ash mark and kumkum prominently  on his forehead,  coming towards their direction and said in a timorous voice that he was his class teacher Masilamani Sir and  he wished to avoid him.

Ignoring the boy’s fear, Shanmugam went towards the teacher and introduced himself as Shanmugam father of  Kumaran. Masilamani put his hand around the boy and said,”Kumaran is  a well behaved and obedient boy but needs to improve much in arithmetic, algebra and geometry where his marks were consistently poor while in other subjects they were satisfactory.

“I am working in Pondicherry and visit home only on weekends and unable to devote time for the boy. Can you kindly coach him specially in the weak subjects and generally guide him in other areas. I am willing to pay whatever you demand.” said Shanmugam.

“Money is not important. You can pay whatever you deem fit after watching his progress. I am in Nana  street adjacent to post office and I hope your house is not far,” replied the teacher.

“Very well. He can start coming to you from tomorrow at whatever time is convenient for you. We live close by near Agastiyar ashram temple..

Within a month there was a dramatic improvement with the boy scoring good marks not only in arithmetic, algebra and geometry but high marks  in other subjects. It was not only the gentle and affectionate manner in which the teacher handled him but also the way he kindled the interest of the boy in a wide range of areas. He gave often the boy cookies, sweet balls of groundnut mixed with gur and other snacks to eat. Within six months, Kumaran with his new studious habits  was  within the first three positions in the class with centum in arithmetic every time.

After about three years Shanmugam was transferred to Delhi and the family also moved with him. Masilamani lost touch with Kumaran.

More than two decades had elapsed and Kumaran who had finished PG in economics in Delhi school of economics had become an IPS officer in the central government at Delhi. He had visited Chennai many times but never went  so far to the place where  he lived or studied. Impelled by a strong desire to visit the temple at Agastiyar ashram he was there at 7 am on a Friday during the current visit. The temple was his  childhood haunt and brought back many fond memories of his house, the school where he studied and most of all his teacher, Masilamani Sir. He even wondered whether he would have time to pay him a surprise visit.

When he went to the main sanctum, he found a figure on the steps with his head bent towards the sanctum and sobbing softly. Wondering whether it could  be a person crying emotionally before the lord or someone who needed medical help, he went near him. The trademark ash marks with kumkum on his forehead, the aquiline nose and the ochre coloured jibba gave away unmistakably  who he was. He. had grown old and the body was emaciated. He gently touched him and asked  “Sir, I am Kumaran, your old student. Why are you in this position? Are you unwell or what?”

The figure sat up with a start and blinking unbelievingly at Tall and grown up Kumaran in his mid-thirties asked, “Are you Kumaran the bright boy in my class who visited my house  for three years and later left for Delhi?”

“Yes Sir, I am the same Kumaran,” he said as he bent down to touch his feet. “What is bothering you? Why are you crying? Is anything bothering you? I can be of some help if possible if only you deem fit to tell me,” he said holding Masilamani's hands.

“It is a serious matter. It is all my destiny. Today is fixed for my daughter’s marriage  in the adjacent marriage hall. The muhurtam is fixed at 9 am. The bridegroom’s father demands that I pay immediately the promised dowry of Rs.5000 if the marriage were to proceed further. All the guests had assembled and were having breakfast. The purohit had started the rituals.I explained I could not muster the resources within the promised date and that I would pay within a fortnight. He is adamant and not agreeable. He shouted that they would pack their bags and leave. Everything stopped abruptly. I did not know what to do. Embarrassed by the muffled murmur among the guests, I came running here to plead before  God to save the marriage,” he said at one go.

“Have no worry, Sir. Let us go to the marriage hall. Get into my car. I have a meeting at 10 am at Fort St George and there is  no time to waste. I can surely help you out,” assured Kumaran. The car followed by a jeep with two men in Khaki stopped before the nearby marriage hall.

Seeing Masilamani alighting from the car with a tall gentleman and followed by a  jeep with two khaki clad men, the bridegroom’s father got scared that policemen had come to arrest him and rushed inside in a hurry.

“There is nothing to fear. You don’t have to rush. Please wait. We intend to resolve the matter amicably,” said Kumaran loudly followed by Masilamani pleading with his would-be-sammandhi to stop. Kumaran suggested that they go inside a room to finalise the issue and it was readily accepted.

Meantime, Kumaran handed over to Masilamani a packet containing Rs5000/ and said, “Here is the amount you need. I had brought this amount to be put in the Hundi at the temple. If today  I am in a good position , it is entirely  because of the hard work you put in to guide me. There was no turning back after the kickstart you gave me. Acharya or Guru is also considered like parents as equal to god. Instead of the other god at the temple, I offer this to you with grateful thanks,” and added  as he bent to touch his feet,” Kindly  accept it and bless me.” Dumbstruck at the unexpected and happy denouement, Masilamni embraced Kumaran with tears of joy flowing from his eyes.

The bride groom and his  father were summoned to the room when the money was handed over. Kumaran gently admonished the father, “What you have done is highly improper and unlawful. I hope there will not be any more demand or  harassment of the bride in future. Beware, she is like my younger sister. Turning to the groom, he said," I learn you are an ASI at Vellore. Give me more details about you through my teacher. You can all go to the hall and get started immediately.”

Turning to Masilamani,he asked, “ Sir, can you please  call your daughter? I am in a hurry to go to the meeting after visiting the temple.”

When the bride came and prostrated before him, he gave her a cover containing Rs.1000/ and said, “Have this small gift. I bless you both  with everlasting happiness.” Turning to the teacher, he asked ,”Can you give me a cup of coffee? I am in a hurry. One more thing lest I forget. I learned your son is a SSLC,24 years old and unemployed. Please send me his resume to the email address  in  this card of mine .I will  forward it to a  friend who is running a big Security Agency.”

As he stood up to take leave, surprisingly the temple bell tolled  and as if taking it as a cue, the nadaswaram and melam also started playing enthusiastically. The hall that was silent hitherto  came alive humming  with activity and noise amidst the rustle of silk saris and laughter from the ladies moving hither and thither.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Winning an argument with the spouse


Sometimes we do not say what is in our mind for fear of hurting people. This silence can cause problems. Contrarily we tell immediately what is in our mind and this also can create misunderstandings. What do we do? There is no hard and fast rule. There is a time and place for everything. A wrong timing or place can do great harm to a relationship.

Sharmila did not mean to hurt Sanjay. Yet when he came from the office and went straight to give her a bear hug, she said, “Sanjay, you smell a lot. Take a wash and change your dress before you come near me. Sorry, don’t take me amiss.”

It was a truthful statement as he was stinking after the long drive in the afternoon to the project site. The ‘sorry’ did little to assuage the hurt in Sanjay. He looked at her with anger in his eyes and moved away. Sharmila did not expect him to react this way to what she considered a reasonable comment. She was right but chose a wrong moment especially when he was wishing to express his love for her after a long day. She could have mentioned later when they watched TV after dinner.

When he came after the bath, he did not go near her but sat on the sofa to watch TV. She knew he was upset. When she took a cup of tea that he usually took, he declined saying he didn’t need it.

“Why are you angry? Even the kids have complained that you stink. You know I am your well wisher and if I don’t tell you, who will? Your friends, you must have noticed, are probably keeping away from you” said Sharmila. This made matters worse. The act of deriving support from the statements of children and an insinuation that friends are possibly keeping away infuriated him. He refused to believe what he considered a hearsay statement from the kids.

He blurted out in anger “I have not been telling you not wishing to hurt your felicity that every time I come near you, your mouth repels me. You don’t brush your teeth well. Often, I feel like throwing up. Being considerate, I have been putting up with you. Don’t think you are a paragon of cleanliness and personal hygiene.”

“Oh, you talk like this. Do you know the sleepless nights I suffer from with your loud non stop snoring? Have I ever mentioned this even once? How heartless can you be accusing me of nonsense when I brush my teeth twice daily?”

What started as an innocuous statement had graduated into full blown mutual possibly exaggerated accusations and resulted in both going to bed without their dinner.

There was no attempt on both sides to understand each other. The issues were never dealt with patiently at any time but started as accusations. Instead of indulging in ridicule or sarcasm, there should have been a friendly chat when both were in happy mood and in receptive mood to other’s viewpoints. It must be agreed by both that the arguments resulted from a real issue that had to be resolved. Putting up with sweat and smell however close the couple might be is certainly not conducive for bonding. The initial dislike may run the risk of spiraling into incompatibility. The entire unpleasant situation could have been avoided had care been taken about timing and also either of them ending the argument by some acceptance of some responsibility. Ego has no place in close relationships.

Some tactics may help.

See the purpose behind the accusation or argument. If the intention is honest and shows a genuine concern from the accuser, accept it with grace and address it in a comfortable manner.

Avoid ridicule, sarcasm, and offensive tone. The purpose of the argument is lost if anger is provoked without eliciting a proper response to the message that is conveyed.

Never resort to making others agree that you were right and that the mistake lay with them. Just leave the message directly in a pleasant tone which would surely be taken note of.

Maybe if all these  things fail, it may be necessary to show resentment and show anger to make others know that you are interested in them and care for them. But that should be the last resort. Expressing resentment is preferable than suffering in silence and allowing the chasm to grow wider. In some cases, anger may actually  trigger affection and emotional closeness too.